Linguapress English Grammar
Advanced level reading resources Intermediate reading resources English grammar online Language games and puzzles
Linguapress English Grammar

All of whole

Explaining the differences between all and whole

All and whole - a guide with examples

All and whole are quantifiers, and as such they are a form of determiner. They express totality or completeness.
   Sometimes one can choose either of them; but there are major differences in their usage, and all and whole are not always interchangeable.
Page Index : All with singular nouns All with plural nouns
All and pronouns All as an adverb Uses of whole


All implies a complete number or total entity. An incomplete number or entity can be expressed using the negative form of all, which is not all.

1. All +singular noun.

There are two possible structures.

1.1.  The most common is  {all + determiner + noun}.

Determiners that can be used in this structure are the definite article the, demonstrative adjectives (this, that), possessive adjectives ( my, your, etc.), possessive forms of the noun (Peter's, the man's, etc.).

  When the group {all + determiner + noun} is the subject of a statement, the verb is normally in the singular. However, when the noun in the group is a collective noun referring to multiple people, such as team, committee, school, or family, the verb is generally in the plural (examples 3,4 and 5) in British English.

Examples :
  1. All the factory was on fire
  2. All my collection of old books has been stolen.
  3. All the school know that the principal has won the lottery.
      or  All the school knows that the principal has won the lottery.
  4. All my family are coming to dinner tomorrow.
       All my family is coming to dinner tomorrow . sounds improbable
  5. All the President's team is/are standing for re-election.
  6. All this rubbish must be cleared up at once !
  7. I want you to clear up all this rubbish.
  8. Not all your art is valuable. Take care ! This means "Some of your art is not valuable": it does not mean "None of your art is not valuable"

1.2. Less common {all + noun}

This structure is much less common as it can only be used with non-count or uncountable nouns (such as water, oxygen, philosophy). The article must be omitted when the non-count noun is used as an open generalisation. 
Examples :
  1. All water is wet.
  2. I want all alcohol removed from this school.
  3. All sport is good for you.
  4. All poetry is not necessarily good poetry.
  5. Not all poetry is good poetry.

2. All with plural nouns

Plural nouns are by definition count nouns, so the situation is less complicated. As in the singular, there are two structures, with or without a determiner., i.e.  {all + determiner + noun} and {all + noun}
   Whether to use a determiner or not depends on the context, and follows exactly the normal rules for count nouns in the plural. It depends if the noun is being used as an open generalisation (no determiner), examples 1 - 5,  or as a limited generalisation (with determiner), examples 6 - 10.

Examples :
  1. All diamonds are valuable
  2. All fish live in water.
  3. I like all kinds of music.
  4. He gave all sorts of excuses for being late.
  5. All multinational companies have operations in several countries.
  6. All the diamonds in this shop are very valuable.
  7. All the fish that I've eaten have been very tasty.
  8. I like all the music that you play on your violin.
  9. All his excuses were quite improbable.
  10. All the multinational companies in London create lots of jobs.


3. All with pronouns

All can either qualify a pronoun (as in You all) , or can be used on its own as an indefinite pronoun.

3.1. All qualifying a pronoun

With pronouns, how all is used depends on whether it comes in front of the pronoun or after it.  
3.1.1.  Used after the pronoun, all is never followed by of .   {pronoun (+ be) + all } 
 3.1.2.  In front of the pronoun: all is always followed by of  {all + of + object form pronoun} .

Compare examples 1 - 5 with examples 8 - 12.
Examples :
  1. You all like chicken nuggets, don't you? (Or in popular American slang... Y'all ...)
  2. We're all in this together.
  3. They're all asleep.
  4. You must all get some sleep before the big match.
  5. Which do you like best ?  / I like them all.  
  6. These new rules concern us all.
  7. I want it all; I want it now  (title of classic song by Queen)
  8. All of you like chicken nuggets, don't you?
  9. All of us are in this together.
  10. All of them are asleep.
  11. All of you must get some sleep before the big match.
  12. Which do you like best? / I like all of them.
  13. These new rules concern all of us.
Additionally, all can qualify the singular pronoun it, using the same structures
Examples :
  1. It's all rather interesting.
  2. All of it needs to repaired at once.
  3. The project is perfect. I like it all.
  4. I don't just want part of the story, I want all of it.

3.2. All as a pronoun

All is sometimes used by itself, as an indefinite pronoun, meaning everything or everyone. This mostly occurs as the subject of a sentence, though very occasionally after a preposition.
Examples :
  1. All's well that Ends Well   (title of a play by Shakespeare)
  2. All you need is love  (title of classic hit single by the Beatles).
  3. With love from all.

5. All as an adverb

Occasionally, all is used as an adverb, qualifying an adjective, with the meaning of completely (examples 1 & 2) , or qualifying a preposition such as through or over (examples 3 - 5).
Examples :
  1. She was all sad about having to go home.
  2. This is an all European research project.
  3. We drove all through the night.
  4. Help, there are horrible insects all over the place.
  5. The success of this company is all down to good management.


Whole - quantifier or adjective or noun

Whole as a quantifier

Whole as a quantifier can  only be used with singular nouns, either singular count nouns or singular non-count nouns. It is used exactly like a normal adjective, in the structures:
     {determiner + whole + noun} or {determiner + whole + adjective + noun} .

Note: Whole and place names:

These structures are not used with place names that do not already contain an article, notably the names of countries. One can say the whole United States, but one  cannot say the whole England,: one can say the whole of England. See whole as a noun, below.
Whole has a similar  meaning to all, though the structures are different.  
   However, by using the whole one stresses the unity of an entity, not its multiple components. Thus when the subject of a sentence is a collective noun implying multiple people , such as team, committee, school, or family, qualified by whole, the verb is  normally in the singular  (examples 5 - 6).  In British English, it can occasionally be used in the singular, as in example 7.
Examples :
  1. You will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
  2. This whole story has been made up.
  3. We'll have to repaint the whole room.
  4. There was a whole complicated dossier to fill in.
  5. The whole English team was welcomed at Buckingham Palace.
  6. The whole committee was in favour of the motion.
  7. Our whole family like to meet up once each year.

Whole as an adjective

Occasionally, whole functions as a descriptive adjective, a synonym of entire or complete. In this function, it can qualify plural nouns
Examples :
  1. Whole collections of Roman bronzes are extremely rare.
  2. The tsunami washed away whole sections of the coastline.
  3. We only sell whole computers, not the separate components. 
  4. Whole oranges are used to make the best marmelade.

Whole as a noun

Finally, whole is also sometimes as a noun, notably with the indefinite article, a whole, meaning a complete unit, or in the expression the whole of (notably with place names) and in the expression "on the whole", meaning generally speaking. There is one common expression where it is used with a pronoun: the whole of it
Examples :
  1. Two halves make a whole.
  2. The whole of France was waiting for the news.
  3. The whole of the USA  is covered by snow.
  4. Here are statistics for the whole of Britain.
  5. The whole of our history has been marked by political rivalry.
  6. The whole of the city was without electricity.
  7. On the whole (As a whole), I think the exhibition is rather good..
  8. I thought  he'd eat some of the cake, but not the whole of it !

Going further: All and whole are among the tricky common English words explained with even more pertinent examples in Problem words in English (Ebook or paperback) . 

Return to Linguapress home page

A selection of other resources in graded English
from Linguapress
Advanced level reading : a selection
California's water wars
The electric car revolution
Steaming on the Mississippi  with audio
Britain, at any cost ?
The Queen who almost wasn't  with audio
Tea and the British with audio
Woody Guthrie, the Dustbowl baladeer
Crime time basketball
Advanced level short stories:
For Elise  by Pamela Garza with audio
A Suitable Job  by Lindsay Townsend
And lots more:  More advanced reading texts  
Intermediate reading :
Profession : Cowboy
George Washington    with audio
Fast food, OK? Dialogue with audio
Robin Hood, fact or fiction?  
Black taxis going green 
Sport:  The story of the Derby  with audio
USA: Still looking for gold !  
USA: The story of Coca-Cola 
And more:  More intermediate reading texts  
Selected grammar pages
Online English grammar
Phrasal verbs in English
Word stress in English with audio
Reported questions in English
And some other pages
Language and style 
Word games for EFL/ ESL
Texts on the environment

And specifically for teachers

CopyrightCopyright information.
Free to view, free to share,  free to use in class, free to print, but not free to copy..
If you like this page and want to share it with others,  just share a link, don't copy.

Linguapress respects your privacy and does not collect personal data. Cookies are only used to log anonymous traffic stats and enable essential functions. To remove this message click   , otherwise click for more details